Volume 8, Issue 1, Spring 2001
Lucas D. Introna
Virtuality and Morality
On (not) Being Disturbed by the Other
This paper critically describes the mediation of social relations by information technology, drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas. In the first of three movements, I discuss ethical relations as primordial sociality based in proximity. In the second movement I discuss the how the self encounters the Other, the ethical contact. How can the self make contact with the Other without turning the Other into a theme, a concept or a category? In the third movement, I discuss the electronic mediation of the social as simulation. I argue that simulation shatters proximity since it transforms expression, the trace, into presentation, an image. I argue that the distance produced by the mediation increases the potential for the Other to become appropriated by the self-certain ego as a theme, according to its categories. In simulation, proximity is shattered and the ego can no longer be disturbed---no longer become a hostage. In a final section, I explore alternative arguments for the possibility of electronic mediation that preserves the trace, that possibility of being disturbed.